Sunday, April 25, 2010


I saw something burning on my chest
and I tried to brush it off
with my right hand
but my arm wasn’t there
the soldier said.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


For Kicknosway

Dawn slips a tight grip.
takes the fist from the heart.
A late half moon cuts west
a crow or two, wrens and mockingbirds later.
It's a day, a bang of promise if only.
In the near distance, voices.
Is this a hoot or yesterday's whisper?
The walls say nothing.
You sip coffee, go over the news.
A few more dead.
A bomb in last week’s cereal ad.
Ms. Nipsy won Idol Monster of Tomorrow.
She smiles from the page.
Then it's a shower, the fix to survive.
You dress for said occasion.
The red carpet sweeps just
below the prefrontal lobes.
You step out and the sun nods.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

North Beach Letter

Upon hearing of the death of the Poet, Bob Kaufman

Green and Grant. Green and Grant. Somebody said, Green and Grant. Why is it? Why? How come every time I get to Green and Grant there's Bob Kaufman crossing Green and Grant. Is it because Bob Kaufman is always crossing Green and Grant? Is it because he walks around day and night and Green and Grant part of the tour? Is it because I only cross the block when he's crossing? Or is it because he's always there when I'm there. Or am I there when he's there?

Bob Kaufman crosses Green and Grant for the last time. So said the news. Bob Kaufman returned from silence in the Seventies. He'd been gone a long time. He came back as T.S. Eliot. He came back as T.E. Lawrence. He walked the neighborhood saying, "T. E. Lawrence, that's it!" He went to the Times Theater and came back as the Owl and the Pussycat. He said he'd been around the World on the 41 Union. He snapped, turned inside out and came back.

I don't know if people who say they'd die for poetry actually plan it. As Bob Kaufman said, "Everything I planned came as a complete surprise." I have a tendency to believe him. Whatever the reason, he moved through us all, this wiry craziness wound among us, a clip of how we all come and go inside; a slip, a turn, the vague comprehension that what we do is too much, or not enough. Yes, he made us painfully aware of how far one can go. He challenged us with silence; the inappropriate enigma, the madness we emanate only to find out too late, that behold, it's true. Not many cross that line and those that do, come back with a limp or a torn parachute. But wait, true madness that doesn't want the whole blanket puzzles us. What is this? Who is in there?

I must confess I don't know why people do what they do. Heaven forbid, that I should know why they write. I write because I don't know what the hell else to do. Because I truly feel empty when I don't, or can't. Oh, but we're talking DIE! Here's a man of internal hieroglyphics. Here's a man the scholars and "Beats" tried to turn inside out and read. They sat him in a chair and took notes, while his words swept the streets on secret scrolls. All along the avenues he walked, the dark craziness of us all, the living haunt, the escape from the mirror that is not us.

We all take our buses across town and back. Some of us stay and muse. Some settle in for the long winter, some decide it will always be spring. Some are summer to begin with. Some of us become the Fall, the nostalgia at the top of the hill in the timeless wind where we reflect upon the dream. Or we realize the dream isn't a dream, the executioner has stepped in the ring and all the cards have been played. Then we can mail our picture to the public relations man or forget it. Or we keep what we learned and forget we could have been that dream walking along the avenues, crazily dreaming of a better world. Perhaps we are that, perhaps not, hopefully a little of both, in the grand trajectory we spin for ourselves.

Oh how he walks, with all the human things we had, have,
all the give and take, slipping off down the block, in a bouncing,
sliding, exciting time, when all the dreams are big ones and we say
it again. "Every time I cross Green and Grant, there's Bobby.”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Matter of Truth

An article Garrison read in a magazine confiscated from Cabin 3 on the magic practices of the Azande in the Sudan, sent him to temporary ecstasy. He immediately drove out and bought a scrawny New Hampshire Red hen from a farmer, one of eighty-two emaciated birds the man free-ranged on a quarter of an acre just north of Pine Key

A short time after midnight, Garrison heard Sweeney banging around out back. The cab door of the semi slammed a couple of times and Sweeney went into a coughing jag that seemed to go on forever. Sweeney gagged and spit and carried on out there until Garrison thought he might have bought the chicken in vain. Suddenly it went quiet.

Garrison took the frazzled hen out of the double-thick shopping bag and untied her legs. She was an old hen that couldn't cough up an egg in a hormone factory and Garrison reasoned rightly that he'd paid a buck more than he should have. But then, he didn't want to ask Fry for one of his. He flat didn't want to explain why he wanted it. He took the popcorn bag off the counter and fed the bird on the rug. The bird went crazy and Garrison got more excited by the second.

When he was sure the hen had ingested enough, he began asking it the question. Underneath it all, he was ashamed of himself, but he had to know. "Did Spring do it with Sweeney?" He tried the subtle approach. "Did that nice little man out back of this motel, take advantage of my beautiful Spring?" Garrison watched the feasting bird for any sign of faltering, but he knew the chicken would eat popcorn long after they stopped being hungry. Keeping that in mind, he emptied the bag on the floor and assumed a more direct approach.

"Chicken, did my Spring do jump on that truck driver?"

The hen went on eating, which led Garrison to believe maybe he was wrong, and if he was wrong, a great emptiness stood just around the corner. What would he do if he was wrong?

He had visions of going home after his mother and father died and sitting on the front porch rocking away to total madness, his body finally rotting right there in the chair, then going to bone and clacking along with the rocker until the sun and the buzzards ate every last trace, until all that remained was the porch, a pile of gray dust and the infinite screaming silence that held no peace.

The hen kept on eating. "Did Spring have intercourse with Billy?" Garrison waited a full twenty minutes. According to what the ritual said; if the answer was NO, the bird would walk right off, but if YES, if indeed Spring had done it, the hen was due to keel over at any second. Garrison sat down and opened a beer. Maybe the hen didn't understand him.

"How about it, hen? Did my sweet Spring have sexual relations with a truck driver?"

The hen stalked the motel lobby and even went so far as to poop under the wall clock. Ordinarily, Garrison would have strangled the bird at that point. The hen stopped pecking at the spots in the rug and shook herself. Could he be wrong? The hen preened. She looked up at the blinking, silent TV with disinterest. Finally she waddled over to the computer table next to the counter and settled into the carpet beneath it.

Garrison continued to drink beer, his adrenalin so high he thought he'd scream. The damn chicken was ok! It had to be. It just had to! He leaned over in the chair and checked out the hen. Her eyelids fell lazily, but no...No, she wasn't dying. The book must have been right. No bird could survive that much rat poison.
He stepped over to the fridge for another beer. When he returned the hen hadn't budged, so he went over and spooked her. She flew at the front door, squawking and flapping and carrying on until Garrison wished to hell he hadn't done it. She flew up on the counter scattering papers everywhere. He had to get that bird out of the office.

Garrison opened the front door and hooked the screen door open. When he turned around the bird was gone. He peered over the front desk. Somewhere he heard papers rustling, but no hen.

It took a full three minutes to find the hen upside-down in the wastebasket, her yellow feet running a curious marathon up the metal sides, coming to a slow wretched finish along the newspaper weather report calling for snow showers and a low of 29 degrees in higher elevations, while the bird's head flopped over a Battle Creek story, COOL CAT FREED FROM SODA MACHINE.